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Understanding Unconscious bias and Microaggressions Workshops
When we encounter unconscious bias and microaggressions (which often find their origin in these biases) in our SEAS environment, they can impact students, faculty, staff and alumni in different ways. But each encounter has a limiting effect on our progress as engineers. For students, it might be the impact of team work in a classroom project or club; for faculty, it might be relevant to a search committee; for staff, it can mean the difference between a great and not great place to work; and for an alumna, it might affect one’s success in the workplace.
While studies show that such bias is not changed overnight, bringing issues of bias to light over the course of a year should permit the SEAS community to recognize our biases and, most importantly, change our actions to mitigate the impact of the bias.
For the 2019-2020 year, the Center launched a series of programs for student leaders, incoming students, faculty and staff. We hope to expand to session for alumni during the February 2020 Engineer Week (e-week).
How will this be different from existing GW programming? GW has a prepared presentation on diversity training and unconscious bias. Additionally, the website for the GW Office for Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement (https://diversity.gwu.edu
) has many links faculty and students can explore.
The Center programming is based on active learning. We have chosen two activities developed under NSF grants, the Buffalo card game and Microaggression activities, as a basis for learning and discussion about unconscious bias. These two activities will enable participants to experience their own unconscious biases, to reflect on how to continue to be aware of them and to develop a personal toolkit to help them deal with real situations where unconscious biases or microaggressions appear.
During e-week, on February 19, 2020, the Center plans to coordinate a panel titled “Why Engineering Needs Many Voices” during the newly expanded e-week. We will have a few opportunities for SEAS community, including alumni, to engage in activities such as Buffalo or Microaggression (if they have not yet done so). The staff of the GW Office of Diversity and Inclusion has offered to present a few workshops during the day as well. We will end the day with a major speaker on the topic – speaker to be identified.